Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Reviews by Ash: Evil Under the Sun, by Agatha Christie

I just finished my first Agatha Christie book. (Remarkably, I happened to reach the Agatha Christie episode in Doctor Who later the same day that I started the novel.)

I'm not sure if there's much of a call for reviewing Agatha Christie, but I enjoy taking a stern look at things and analyzing what I like and what I don't like. So why not? So, I welcome you to...

Reviews by Ash
Evil Under the Sun, by Agatha Christie

Evil Under the Sun is a murder mystery (of course) set in England of the... what? 1920s? 1930s? It's a strange mix of a comedy of manners and a murder mystery, complete with femme fatale, heroin deals, and evil-hearted swindlers and murderers. Almost incongruous against the high-styled English background.

Set against the backdrop of a draughty old hotel on a secluded island once used by pirates and smugglers, Evil Under the Sun presents a convincing portrait of the genteel guests who attend the modern-day resort, when a woman in red comes among their number who draws the eye of every man who sees her, and an unknown, mysterious killer shatters their peaceful retreat.


I liked the attention to personalities that Agatha Christie brings to the table. I wouldn't necessarily say her characters have the most emotional depth, but she clearly had a keen eye for the mannerisms of people. I can only assume that these thoughtful descriptions were based on observations of real-life characters.

I liked that the morality of the story had a bit of complexity to it. Though titled, "Evil Under the Sun," the character who initially appeared to be the eponymous "Evil" was not it, and even the most heroic characters occasionally slipped up and lied, or worse (usually in misguided attempts to cover for the people they loved.) Gender roles were straight (1930s England, after all), but her judgement of and opinions about the genders were attractively subtle and shaded.

Finally, I was pleased to discover that the mystery was one which could have been solved. Theoretically. By Einstein with a supercomputer. But all the facts were there! Which makes it a welcome break from Sir Doyle, even if I do like my Sherlock once in a while. I suppose when you take a pirate island and throw in a bunch of elderly british people and a crack deal, what you have just isn't going to make much sense, no matter which way you look at it.


The opening of the story was a little slow. Aside from the detailed depiction of different characters and their behaviors, speech and mannerisms, there was very little to hook the interest until the murder happened later on.

The events of the murder were a tad far-fetched. I was not convinced the plan could have been pulled off that smoothly. Although it was at least internally consistent with the clues.

The finger pointing became a bit schizophrenic toward the end. In the final reveal speech of Poirot, he clearly and directly states "You did it!" to almost every character in the room, before finally settling on the real killer(s). Really Poirot? Couldn't you just have pointed to the killer first?

I'm the Guy with the Gun:

If you need a book that will hit the ground running and hook you from the start, this isn't it. But if you'd like to take a trip to a secluded hotel in 1930's England, and meet some colorful characters while you're there, you may have fun with this book.

At the end of the day, Agatha's attention to detail in crafting her mystery leaves me keen to read more of her books. Next time, I want to see if I can figure out the answer *before* she tells me. (Yeah, right!)

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